I’m guessing most Mac users running a Mac that can handle it have already updated to Yosemite, or will soon. I’m the kind of user who always runs OS updates whenever they’re available.
I’m not a huge fan of Apple’s decision to make Helvetica Neue the new system font in Yosemite. I like Helvetica, but I don’t love it. I prefer something with a little more personality, a little less ubiquity. That said, I do prefer geometric and Grotesque-type fonts over humanist fonts… and I was really sick of Lucida Grande, which I never really liked in the first place.
My first reaction when I tried the Yosemite beta was that it looked half-assed. The final version is a bit more polished, but it still feels poorly thought out. Or, at least, it did until last weekend when I was at an Apple Store and I saw Yosemite on a Retina MacBook Pro for the first time.
Retina is clearly what this interface was designed for, and eventually that’s how we’ll all be experiencing it. But for now, and for a while to come, most of us will probably be stuck with non-Retina Macs and the inferior presentation of Yosemite’s refined UI that they deliver.
That said, there are a couple of things you can do to improve the experience. Part of why Yosemite doesn’t look great on a non-Retina Mac is that there’s too much subtle stuff going on that just kind of gets mucked up when you don’t have that precise definition on letters and icons. You can improve this aspect of the UI immensely by reducing its use of transparency. Open up System Preferences and switch to Accessibility. Check the box labeled Reduce transparency.
Another optional change you may wish to make is to darken the menu bar and Dock. This is more of a matter of taste, but personally I like the darker look. Switching this on essentially inverts the colors, so your menu bar has a nearly black background with white text, and the Dock becomes translucent dark gray, instead of translucent white.
Once again in System Preferences go to General and check Use dark menu bar and Dock.
Did you hear the one about the guy who bought a Kindle on the day the iPad was released? Of course you didn’t, because no one is buying a Kindle today!
Well, I’m sure someone’s buying a Kindle. I’m not sure why.
Waiting for the second generation
I can understand why some people wouldn’t want an iPad. I’m not buying one today. I didn’t buy an iPhone until 9 months after it was released. I probably will own an iPad eventually. I would definitely wait until the 3G models are out; I would probably wait until a future version is available with a built-in camera, and after prices come down so at least 32 GB of storage is available for the same price as 16 GB today.
Most of the critics (including Walt Mossberg and David Carr on last night’s episode of Charlie Rose), while generally lavishing high praise on the device, cite a common (small) set of complaints: lack of a camera for video chat, the awkwardness of holding it for long periods, and no support for Flash tend to be at the top of the list.
I can certainly agree on the first two points: a camera (or two — one on each side) seems like such an obviously necessary feature that I can’t believe it won’t be added to the second generation model; and although I’ve yet to touch an iPad, much less hold one, I can already imagine that I would quickly tire of propping it up and that two-handed typing while balancing it on my lap would be frustrating. But it comes with a nice case with a built-in prop (as demonstrated by David Carr last night on Charlie Rose), and more accessories will certainly be coming soon from third-party manufacturers.
There was an inadvertent demonstration of the potential physical awkwardness of the device last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when the host and Joshua Topolsky attempted to play a game of air hockey with the iPad placed flat on Jimmy’s desk: with its curved aluminum back, the iPad was prone to skating around on the desk as the two slid their virtual paddles around on-screen.
Charlie Rose loves the iPad. He called it a “game changer” at least 3 or 4 times last night. There’s been some dispute over the iPad’s potential impact, but I think those who are criticizing it on its technical specifics — the lack of whatever they deem it to be lacking — are completely missing the point. I read something recently (which I’ll link to if I manage to track it down again) that was talking about how the upcoming Windows Phone 7 interface would have been just as revolutionary if it had come sooner; the implication being that the major factor in Apple’s success was timing. To me, this so profoundly misses the mark that it’s hard to even take seriously. As much as I hate to use the word “paradigm,” Apple changed the paradigm with the iPhone interface. There wouldn’t be a Windows Phone 7 without the iPhone, nor a Droid, nor any of the other major advancements we’ve seen in “smartphones” since the iPhone was released in the summer of 2007. Yes, there were smartphones before the iPhone and they did a lot of the same things. Yes, Android was being developed for a number of years before the iPhone was released. But the iPhone changed both the perception and the reality of what a smartphone can do.
This is what the iPad will do, for a market — netbooks, or whatever fills the void between phones and laptops — that is even more anemic than the cellphone market was a few years ago. The hardware physically fills that niche perfectly, but the UI is what’s really revolutionary, creating a whole new, far more intuitive, natural, and fun way for people to interact with a technology device, with an underlying system that is more stable and worry-free — it just works — than any computer before it. And just think about the amazing things the 150,000-plus iPhone apps can do today: not even Apple envisioned all of the ways the iPhone would so quickly come to be used by people of all ages, for just about everything. This is what the iPad will do.
I didn’t want one, until I did
Most people see the iPad primarily as a device for consuming media, and to a large extent that’s true. The most strident complaints about its limitations seem to be coming from those who create media, and I can understand where they’re coming from… to an extent. But the iPhone has become a powerful tool for creating media, with its camera and photo manipulation apps; with creative drawing tools (good enough to have produced several New Yorker covers to date); and with a vast array of music creation apps, turning the pocket device… the freaking cell phone into both a musical instrument and a recording studio. Just imagine what the same kinds of innovative thinking can do with a more powerful processor and a much larger screen. You might never find Adobe Creative Suite or Pro Tools on the iPad, but that’s old world thinking. If you let go of the familiar (and far less intuitive to non-techies) trappings of mice and windows, of plugging in peripherals and navigating hierarchical file systems, and embrace the potential of a new way of interacting with a computer, a new world will open up to you.
Over the past several years, I’ve read numerous articles lamenting the fact that for all of the advances in computer hardware technology we’ve witnessed in the last quarter century, the basic GUI concepts have not evolved one bit from the first Macintosh Apple unleashed on the world in 1984 — and its concepts were largely the same as those developed experimentally at Xerox PARC in the late 1960s. When will we finally have a new way of interacting with computers? And where will it come from? It’s not much of a surprise that it came from Apple, and it’s here today.